Who suffered the most from travel restrictions?


As many of you I spent the last few months wondering if there was a place I could visit with a certain degree of safety which also was not subject to specific travel restrictions. It turned out that even if I could fly out of my Country the airport at destination might decide to not let me disembark from the plane, or I might have to undergo a voluntary quarantine upon returing back to Italy. At some other times there were so many travel restrictions to prevent me from going anywhere.

Finally, at some point, the virus outbreak in certain areas of the world was to extensive to make it even hard to me thinking about travelling at all out of my own courtyard.

The pandemic has affected so many within the tourism industry that it will take several years before recovering completely. However some areas have been hit harder than others and will pay the consequences of the pandemic at a higher level and for a longer period.

Europe: the old continent has been the first hit by the virus after China. Despite the EU regulations that tried to find a common way to counteract the virus outbreak (which also came a bit late to be honest), each Member State enforced its own solutions which in some cases, such as Italy, provided results in a reasonably short time, while others, such as Spain, France and the UK were reluctant to lockdown at the beginning, thus they allowed the virus to circulate for a long time before finally making the decision to lockdown. All in all, during the summer months, most of the States were in a good situation, thus travelling within the EU (especially in the so called Schengen Area, which is the group of EU States that completely waived border controls between them) was possible. Most the northern European who travelled choose the southern european destinations such as Italy, Malta, and Greece. Therefore those areas were midly touched by the pandemic as the tourism industry recovered quite a lot in the following months, even if not all, especially the southern Italian Regions which benefited also from a massive domestic tourism.

The Americas: both North and South America are seriously hit by the virus. For a certain period of time travelling to the US or Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia was forbidden for us if not for extremeley urgent reasons, although at some point it was impossible to get to know in advance what Countries would allowed us to enter its territory. I am not fully informed about domestic tourism within the context of each indivual State of the Americas but appearently there is not so much movement, some airlines filed for bankrupcy as well as some car rentals, thus I am under the impression that most of the tourism activities skipped completely the 2020 season and will have to wait for the next year to re start.

Myself in Botswana, 2016. Photo by Gabriele Merlo

Africa: this is the area that is paying the highest price. Most of the Countries are not well structured and do not have a proper healthcare system to even detect the cases, in some others they simply refuse to believe there is a virus and didn’t enforce any measure of any kind. Despite what local governments believed, it is the tourists who choose not to travel to Africa. The lack of flights is still influencing quite a lot our travelling choices while the lack of confidence in what local authorities are doing to keep the virus under control is doing the rest.

A friend of mine who works for the Botswana Tourism Authority wrote me last week that they haven’t seen any foreign tourist circulating in the past 8 months, except very few domestic travellers who exploited some governmet support to explore their own Country and prevent too many lodges from bankrupting. Another friend who is a safari guide in South Africa wrote me that parks have been re opened two weeks ago but there is no tourist in view, same as per Namibia. A special case is Tanzania whose President declared months ago that the virus didn’t hit the Country at all because of the prayers they prayed and quit sending information to WHO in early April. Such decision generated a huge lack of confidence that even if some flights have been rescheduled (pretty far from the previous volumes), the totality of those who have been brave enough to travel just went to Zanzibar instead of mainland Tanzania.

It will take a lot of time for Arican tourism to rise up its head again, especially because many companies (especially those that are locally owned) didn’t make it to survive and without future foreign investments it will be hard for many to relocate themselves in the labour market.

South East Asia: except for Singapore, for which information are easily accessible, other Countries make it difficult to get to know what the exact situation is in their local context, thus also generating doubts and lack of confidence.

To sum up: the virus is a common enemy and threat for the whole global community but the consequences of it are pretty different in each area of the world, as far as tourism is concerned. There are 8 candidate vaccines undergoing step 3 of the experimentation, one of which is run by a joint Italian-British venture and it seems to be, at the present state of the play, the most probable to sort durable effects. Once a vaccine will be available tourism will be able to re start its engine and slowly go back to normal. Meanwhile, look around yourself and see what is nice to see in your surroundings.

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